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Doc charged in 7 murders may have slain 300 to free up hospital beds, Brazilian investigator says

Posted Mar 28, 2013 1:40 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A doctor has been charged in what authorities are calling seven murders of terminally ill patients at a hospital in Brazil and could be responsible for as many as 300 deaths, an investigator says.

Dr. Virginia Soares de Souza is charged with seven counts of aggravated first-degree murder. She is accused of killing off patients in order to free up beds in an intensive care unit of Evangelical Hospital in Curitiba. She and some of her staff allegedly administered muscle relaxants, then limited oxygen to patients on respirators, asphyxiating them, according to the BBC News, Fox News and Reuters.

Other doctors, nurses and a physiotherapist also are charged with murder, accused of following her orders to kill patients.

De Souza's lawyer, Elias Mattar Assad told Brazil's Globo news service that the charges against his client resulted from a misunderstanding of what constitutes appropriate medical practice, reports the BBC. "We will soon prove that everything that took place in that ICU is justified by the medical literature," he said, referring to the intensive care unit de Souza oversaw.

Reuters reports that Dr. Mario Lobato, who is heading an investigation by Brazil's Health Ministry, said during a Sunday appearance on Globo TV's Fantastico program that many more slayings could be at issue.

"We already have more than 20 cases established, and there are nearly 300 more that we are looking into," said Lobato.

An investigation was launched after hospital staff said they suspected she was killing patients.

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